The constantly running blower in your car or the brightly lit heater in your room might make you momentarily forget that the tricity is colder than Shimla. But one has only to step out in the harsh winter winds to realise the bitter weather conditions. Imagine the plight of the homeless who are forced to spend these nights on the roadside or on market pavements.
As they fight the dipping mercury, they rely on the mercy of the few tricity residents who, by their donations, help them cheat winter blues. From blankets to old woollen clothes, some tricity-based organisations have been dedicating the cold winter months to mobilising collections to warm up those living in abject poverty.
One such is Salaam Zindagi, an organisation registered and working in the tricity since 2008. This year, they have organised a fund-raising drive in collaboration with Hunar, Bharat Unnati Vikas and Chandigarh Social Welfare Board (Chandigarh-based NGOs).
Says Rubina Singh, a volunteer with Salaam Zindagi, “The campaign’s volunteers and mobile vans provided by Chandigarh Social Welfare Board will go to various sectors such as 21, 38, 37, 35 and 8 to collect warm clothes and blankets for those in need, particularly the homeless. Monetary donations (tax deductible) can also be made, which will be utilised to purchase heavy-duty blankets.”
Rubina adds that a blanket weighing one kg costs R300, so volunteers are welcome to make
monetary donations as well. “The distribution starts from January 8 and goes until Lohri. We are also looking for volunteers to help us with collections and distribution,” she says.
Similar are the efforts of another city-based NGO Tammana, which organised a donation drive in December. Isha Kakaria, its founder, shares, “Every December, we take out a truck rally in the tricity and distribute clothes amongst the needy people. People generally go to old-age homes to distribute clothes, but we reach the shelterless outside hospitals, bus stands and roadside. This year too, we collected blankets and quilts from volunteers and ventured out at three in the morning to look for the homeless sleeping without any warm cover. We silently covered them without waking them up. Now, when the chill is only just beginning, we have decided to organise another donation drive on January 12 in the slums of Sector 25. ”
The efforts of Goonj, another NGO working in the tricity, are also worth mentioning for helping those without a roof on their heads survive the chill.
Says Daljeet Kaur, member of Goonj’s Punjab chapter, “Throughout the year, we keep collecting clothes and other items that lie discarded in the homes of people. We have three permanent drop centres in Chandigarh and the main hub in Panchkula.” Daljeet informs about one of their current campaigns, called Rahat Winters. “As a part of this, we need woollen clothes and blankets. Recently, we also conducted collection camps in November,” she adds.
Not just non-government organisations, individuals or groups also indulge in philanthropy work, such as city-based production house, The Theatre Army and Films Productions, which distributed almost 60 blankets last year. Continuing their efforts this season, they have named their programme Mission Blanket.
“I believe that giving away is a gesture that helps in decreasing crime. Since the feeling of hatred is increasing day by day, such gestures help bring in goodwill. And at the end of the day, it gives us a sense of satisfaction,” says a member.